Skip to main content

Full text of "The Gay Genius"

See other formats

Chapter Fifteen

TUNGPO now was to become a farmer by necessity and a recluse
temperament and natural inclination. What society, culture,
learning, reading of history, and external duties and responsibilities
do to a man is to hide his real seE Strip him of all these trappings of
time and convention, and you have the real man. A Su Tungpo back
among the people is like a seal in water; somehow a seal dragging its
fins and tail on land is only half a seal. Su is never more likeable than
when he is an independent farmer trying to make his own living. The
Chinese mind usually glamorises a poet wearing a "coolie hat", putting
his hands to the plough and standing against an idyllic hillside, pro-
vided he can also compose good verse and beat time to it by striking the
buffalo's horn, and provided further that he occasionally, or even
frequently, gets drunk and climbs the city wall to prowl in the moon-
light. Then he becomes Nature's great playboy—perhaps Nature never
intended man to be otherwise.

On January i, 1080, Su Tungpo had left the capital whlrhis eldest
son Mai, who was now twenty-one, for his place of confinement at
4iuangchow. He had hastened there by the most direct overland route,
leaving his family to come after him in charge of his brother. Poor
Tseyu had to bring his own large family (seven daughters, three sons,
and two sons-in-law) to his new post at Kao-an some hundred miles
south of Kiukiang, in addition to Tungpo's family. The post of super-
visor of the wine monopoly was less attractive than we might suppose,
for it amounted to no more than being the keeper of a government
wine store. After a voyage of months, Tseyu arrived at Kiukiang, left
his own family there waiting for him, and took Su TungpoV wife and
Chaoyun and the two younger children up the Yangtse to his brother.
Tungpo arrived at Huangchow on February i, the family not coining
until May 29.

Huangchow was a poor, small town on >the Yangtse some sixty
miles below Hankow. While waiting for his family, Tungpo put up
at a temple, the Tinghueiyuan, situated on a thickly wooded hill-side
at some distance from the river. He shared the meals of the monks,
and after lunch or supper would pace about under a crab-apple tree,
concerning which he wrote one of his most admired poems. Very
soon a group of friends formed around him. The chief magistrate,
Shii, was cordial and often invited him to wine fasts. Across the river,
the chief magistrate of the district of Wuchang (which is not tie
modern Wuchang) was one Chu, who kept sending him wine and eat-